Wife of well-known ultrarunner Scott Jurek, Jenny Jurek is her husband's right-hand woman during his quest to break a huge record.
Professional ultrarunner and Team CLIF Bar athlete Scott Jurek, 41, broke the Appalachian Trail speed record in 2015—covering the 2168.1-mile route in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes—along with a support crew. Jennifer Pharr Davis set the old record of 46 days, 11 hours and 20 minutes in 2011. His journey began in Springer Mountain, Ga., on May 26. He made it to Mount Katahdin, Maine, on July 12.
For such a massive undertaking, support becomes critical. And Jurek’s wife, Jenny, was his crew chief. As you can imagine, it’s no easy task logistically or emotionally. We caught up with Jenny via email to hear about the adventure from her perspective. Her story is below. (She was interviewed prior to Jurek finishing his quest.)
Women’s Running: Sure, you married a legendary, record-setting ultrarunner, but you are a runner in your own right! How to you made the double-runner marriage work?
Jenny Jurek: It’s pretty seamless. We both love to run so we understand the importance of making sure we get our miles in. A lot of times we will run the same route. We start out together and then he will run ahead and run back towards me several times, or he will add on additional miles to the end, or some variation like that. It’s nice having each other to motivate. People assume that all he does is run, but he’s a regular guy. Sometimes he would rather work on the house or in the yard instead of running, so I help get him out the door and vice versa.
WR: What essential lessons have you two learned along the way?
JJ: Check back with me later. It’s still too early to articulate all of them!
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WR: How do you balance running and life or is that even a distinction?
JJ: Live what you love and you will always have the balance!
WR: At what point in the planning process did you decide you wanted such an integral role in Scott’s AT quest?
JJ: Wait, you mean I had a choice?!? Ha! When he signed up for this adventure, I was automatically signed up too. We’re best friends and it sounded fun to me, so of course I was in from the get go.
WR: The bigger the goal, the bigger the crew chief’s job—what did an average day look like for you during the record attempt?
JJ: Wake up when his alarm goes off, between 5–5:30 a.m. Get dressed in the dark, usually grab whatever is within arm’s reach on the floor. Help pack his bag and get Scott out the door as quickly as possible. Drive to the next meeting spot, prepare food and drinks, help fuel and resupply Scott when he comes though, clean up and repeat a few times throughout the day. If there is somebody around to help shuttle my van, sometimes I get to run a section of the AT with him. At the end of the day, I make dinner and prep Scott’s night routine, then I brush my teeth and fall asleep in two seconds.
WR: What did you enjoy about this journey?
JJ: I’m enjoying the AT! I love our runs together on the trail, listening to the birds and meeting hikers. It’s also really awesome to see all the fan support and the enthusiasm from the hikers. People have been coming out to most of the trailheads and running with him, some people leave signs and notes for him on the trail or on our van, and a lot of really kind people have made us incredible vegan foods and offered their homes to us. It’s wonderful to see how excited people are about this whole thing!
WR: What was challenging?
JJ: The most challenging thing is hands down the lack of sleep. A close second would be the lack of cell service.
WR: Scott ran with a torn quad. As his wife and crew chief you are in the challenging position of giving comfort and tough love. How did you manage?
JJ: Oh I’m pretty good with giving tough love. And the great thing about Scott is that he’s not a complainer, he’s a problem fixer. As a trained physical therapist, he knows exactly what’s wrong and how to fix it.
WR: During the journey, what had you experienced in the way of unforeseen challenges and surprise moments of enjoyment and happiness?
JJ: I thought I’d have much more down time to relax, run and swim in the creeks and lakes. I brought a lot of books and crafts to occupy all the free time I would have waiting around. Turns out I’ve gone swimming once and haven’t been able to touch any of my craft projects!
WR: Could you share a couple tips for surviving and thriving on a massive running road trip?
JJ: Make sure your map-reading skills are sharp because my GPS and smart phone don’t work most of the time in the woods. Bring all of your favorite running foods and snacks because chances are you won’t find them on the road. Having some solar power to charge watches, phones and iPods is nice!